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Editorial: Powerless against the North

Thu, February 14 2013 | 10:39 am

The world, even China, can only condemn or issue harsh statements against North Korea after it conducted its third and largest nuclear test on Tuesday. They know its leader Kim Jong-un will not care, even though the lives of millions of North Koreans are in danger because of his reckless action. The world is at a loss.

US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Japan and South Korea can only renew their threat to impose severe economic and diplomatic sanctions, because they know that the leaders of North Korea, one of the world’s most impoverished nations, always have nothing to lose.

North Korea’s foreign trade and investment activities, mostly with its closest ally and largest donor, China, are insignificant. For Pyongyang, the easiest way to make money and to buy food for its starving people is by extorting the world, especially its neighbors Japan and South Korea, and the United States.

Kim Jong-un and his generals know very well that by becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, Pyongyang can force the world to provide everything it wants. It is very clear that they will not hesitate to use the weapons of mass destruction at their disposal to attack any country that they dislike.

South Korea’s leaders, such as former president Kim Dae-jung and outgoing President Lee Myung-bak, have tried for decades to use a carrot-and-stick approach, combining various economic incentives and threats to soften the North’s hard-line stance. President-elect Park Geun-hye, who will be sworn in on Feb. 25, has pledged to take a softer approach in dealing with Pyongyang.

Japan has also exercised its economic might to woo Pyongyang, to no avail. The North took all the benefits but did not want to give anything in return.

The US has been fooled too, while China has faithfully defended the North Korean regime to protect its geopolitical interests in East Asia and to counter the influence of the US and Japan.

Reunification of Korea has been elusive, and perhaps unwanted by all major powers in the region. China wants to maintain the status quo and has high hopes that its little neighbor will gradually transform itself into a wealthier state.

Now China has just begun to pay the price of its long-standing, staunch support for the North. Before it is too late Beijing needs to ensure that Kim Jong-un will not become too wild to tame. Only China can take action against North Korea effectively.

But, knowing the North, it seems it is only a matter of time before the world suffers from the irresponsible acts of the Pyongyang regime.

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